On the Verge: Body Horror Authors to Read Right Now

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

Body horror is a smaller genre under the umbrella of Horror that deals in attacks and atrocities committed on the human body. These inflictions are typically physical or psychological in nature, though they carry a strong emotional resonance as well.

As we detailed in our History of Body Horror article, the reason the genre works so well is because it deals with universal themes and fears. Everyone is subjected to physical pain, disease, aging, and death – and so texts that incorporate these elements are both relatable to some degree as well as terrifying. Even when the elements are stretched to bizarre degrees, there is an underlying current of familiarity.

Writers who work in body horror are particularly adept at cutting to the nerve of our human fragility in all its various forms. They have an ability to weave very real pain and fear into their fiction in ways that are surprising and unnerving. And so, here is a short list of body horror authors you should be reading right now!

Zac Thompson

Zac Thompson author photo

Zac Thompson is a writer born and raised on Prince Edward Island, Canada. He’s written titles like Marvelous X-Men, Cable, and X-Men: Black for Marvel Comics. Along with indie books such as Her Infernal Descent, Relay, and The Replacer. In 2019, Zac became the showrunner of the Age of X-Man universe at Marvel Comics. His critically acclaimed miniseries, Come Into Me, was called the best horror comic of 2018 by HorrorDNA. His debut comic series, The Dregs, was called “lowbrow brilliant” by New York Magazine. His novel, Weaponized, was the winner of the 2016 CryptTV horror fiction contest.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

Hey, I’m Zac Thompson. I was born and raised on Prince Edward Island, which is the smallest province in Canada. Naturally there wasn’t much to do around here as a kid. So I became obsessed with horror at an early age. My brothers and I would bike to the local video store and rent a pile of horror movies long before we should’ve. Regular triple features of insanity basically rewired my brain by the time I turned ten. That led to discovering horror novels, and horror comics… and before long writing for the website Bloody-Disgusting. Writing about horror led to this craving to create my own horror.

I went to film school with the intent to graduate and make my own horror movies. While there, I met my (often) writing partner Lonnie Nadler. We were both writing for VICE at the time and started to see some of the underlying horror of the city we lived in: Vancouver BC. We built out the concept for The Dregs (my first piece of published fiction) with a local artist Eric Zadwadzki. We pitched it as a noir about a city that literally cannibalizes its weakest citizens and we’re told routinely that it was “unmarketable”. Luckily horror is a genre that thrives in the “unmarketable” space and we didn’t give up. After years of looking for a publisher we were lucky that Black Mask Studios saw merit in the transgression of the work.

The Dregs comic cover
The Replacer comic cover
Come into Me comic cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Oh man, this is such a multilayered thing. First, I’d say fully understand your contracts before signing them. Pay a lawyer to go over it, I promise it’s worth it. It can be a really exciting prospect to be offered money in exchange for writing a story. But selling the publishing rights always comes with several attached strings. Ask questions until you understand the terms of your payment, who retains ownership of the story, and if/when you’ll ever retain the publishing rights. Set boundaries early in a relationship and reinforce them if you have to. You shouldn’t work for free and you’re not part of a “family” – anyone who says that kinda stuff to you is probably trying to exploit your labour.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the body horror genre?

I love every type of horror but there’s something so universal to me about being afraid of your own body. There’s this primal part of us that understands we’re in this big sack of meat, filled with a complex network of organs that complete complicated processes to keep us alive but we don’t think about it. Until we’re sick. When we feel pain in our bodies it’s this registration that we’re inside this finite thing that can fail us, betray us, even kill us. There’s something so unnerving about that. Walking around every day knowing your sentience depends on some many squishy, fragile things – you can’t escape that. It takes everything about the horror genre and forces it to be entirely localized inside you. There’s no escaping body horror. Even if you cut out the aberration, you have to live for the rest of your life fearing it might come back.

4. What are your top three favorite body horror books (and/or films)?

So this is just off the cuff, without thinking about it too much because I’ll obsess over this if given the time.

The Troop book cover
Last Days book cover
The Cipher book cover

THE TROOPNick Cutter crafts a weird Lord of the Flies meets Cronenberg mashup that really chilled me to my core. Parasitic alien tapeworms and sadistic little boy scouts. It gets pretty gnarly. Plus it takes place off the coast of Prince Edward Island – so bonus points there.

LAST DAYS – I’m currently on a huge Brian Evenson kick. This is a brutal horror noir with razor sharp prose. A one handed detective is hired by a strange cult known as The Brotherhood of Mutilation to look into the death of one of their one. Unapologetically weird and comes at you with such precision that you wince with every lopped limb. There’s so much amputation in this…it’s actually insane.

THE CIPHERKath Koje’s brilliant weird horror masterpiece just needs to be experienced. Bodies do things I never imagined possible in this.

If you’re interested in learning more about Zac Thompson, check out his website at www.zacthompson.substack.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@ZacBeThompson), Instagram (@zacbethompson), and Goodreads (@Zac_Thompson). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

Hailey Piper

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Hailey Piper writes horror and dark fantasy, and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. She is the author of Queen of Teeth, The Worm and His Kings, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, Benny Rose the Cannibal King, and more. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and her short fiction appears in publications such as Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, The Arcanist, Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, Tales to Terrify, Dark Matter Magazine, Planet Scumm, and many more. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where she haunts their apartment making spooky noises.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I’ve always loved horror: monsters, creatures, etc. Anything like that was guaranteed to catch my interest, so once I started writing as a kid, it only made sense I’d jot stories of dinosaurs, werewolves, and aliens. I like to think my writing has grown a little more sophisticated since I was a little kid writing those short stories, but I still love monsters and always will.

Queen of Teeth book cover
The Worms and His Kings book cover
Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

I think as a child I did exactly what I was supposed to do–let my imagination run wild and don’t worry too much. What I would tell the later writer of me is to remember that, keep it close. It took me years to remember to write and not worry over what else was going on. There’s plenty of time in revisions to figure anything else out, but in the writing itself, we need to be free.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the body horror genre?

As with many elements of horror, one of my favorite aspects of body horror is imagination. The subgenre offers endless possibilities and opportunities both for exploring the terrible things inflicted on our bodies or that our bodies inflict on us, as well as taking abstract ideas and applying them physically. We can learn a lot about the horror of those concepts when giving them root in the human body.

4. What are your top three favorite body horror books (and/or films)?

The Rust Maidens book cover
Akira cover

I can’t say top over all, but three that I love would be The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste (perfect example of taking an abstract concept, such as the deterioration of an entire region and its people, and applying it to the human body), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (which reaches out and works its own category-defying magic), and Akira, which adds a psychic element in how far the human body can be pushed.

If you’re interested in learning more about Hailey Piper, check out her website at www.haileypiper.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@HaileyPiperSays), Instagram (@haileypiperfights), and Goodreads (@Hailey_Piper). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

Eric Larocca

Eric Larocca author photo

Eric LaRocca is the author of several works of horror and dark fiction, and his work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies published in the US and abroad. He is also the author of several plays that have been produced across the country. Eric is represented by Ryan Lewis/Spin a Black Yarn for Film and Television.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I began my writing journey actually writing for theatre. I worked primarily as a playwright for a number of years, and I was fortunate enough to have several of my original plays performed by a local troupe of actors in my hometown of Kent, Connecticut. Despite my love of theatre, I had always possessed a distinct love of the macabre. I was always drawn to works that were inherently dark. I worshipped the work of playwright Tennessee Williams and his work led me to other writers. Eventually I sought out the dark delicacies commonly found in horror fiction and began to educate myself as much as possible. I also need to credit my mother for encouraging my obsession with horror as I became really invested in the genre when she first showed me the film, Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ever since I saw that film, I was totally engrossed in the genre and did all I could to savor as much horror content as possible.

Starving Ghosts in Every Thread book cover
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke book cover

The Strange Thing We Become book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

I think I would caution my former self to be prepared for the criticism, the negativity, and the hatred that writers are often bombarded with. Obviously, there’s no way to mentally prepare for that level of scrutiny and that kind of negativity, but I would simply urge younger writers to find something outside of writing that gives them pleasure. Also, most importantly, do not engage with trolls or haters. There are people on the internet who are actively seeking to start fights and to suck the energy out of people. Don’t feed them. Don’t give in to their negativity.

Another equally important word of advice I would offer my former self as well as newer writers is to take special care of your mental health. This is a very difficult business to navigate and if you’re not mentally equipped to deal with the rejections and the despair, your journey in writing and publishing will be spectacularly miserable. Take the effort to work on your mental health and make certain that you’re healthy and fit to withstand the barrage of rejections you’ll inevitably receive. To that end, do not give up. Keep writing and generating content. You never know when somebody is going to enter your life and ask: “What else ya got?”

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the body horror genre?

I think what inherently draws me to body horror is the level of intimacy commonly found in the genre. It’s such a profoundly disquieting subgenre when you actually consider the topics and themes at play. Body horror has the ability to be as visceral and as brutal as possible because it’s the dissection of us, it’s the exploration of our bodies. Most importantly, the genre skillfully illustrates one of humankind’s most detrimental sufferings: entropy and decay. I think body horror is an exceptionally “truthful” subgenre of horror because it’s a reflection of ourselves–it’s an examination of our humanity and our weaknesses.

4. What are your top three favorite body horror books (and/or films)?

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I’ve been impressed by so many works of fiction and film that cleverly subvert expectations and present body horror in a new, dynamic, and compelling way. I’m immediately reminded of Gwendolyn Kiste’s exceptional novel, The Rust Maidens. Kiste’s writing is so poetic, so lyrical–the horror is so uniquely grotesque and yet so profoundly gorgeous. I also think of Kathe Koja’s Skin as another exceptional example of compelling body horror. Koja’s writing is very unique and it’s a still that belongs entirely to her brand of fiction. Skin was my first introduction to her work, and I’ve been lacking in recent years to check out more of her catalog of fiction. However, Skin definitely stayed with me as a perfect example of dynamic and interesting body horror. Finally, Joanna Koch’s The Wingspan of Severed Hands is another work that I consistently look to for inspiration when executing body horror. Koch’s writing is so hallucinatory and otherworldly. Their command of language astounds me and the way in which they present the narrative in Wingspan is truly remarkable.

If you’re interested in learning more about Eric Larocca, check out his website at www.ericlarocca.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@ejlarocca), Instagram (@ejlarocca), and Goodreads (@Eric_LaRocca). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

Jonathan Winn

Jonathan Winn author photo

Screenwriter and author of Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast (“a great read…powerful and jarring” – Cemetery Dance, 2016), Martuk…the Holy (“A Highlight of the Year”), Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche (Top Twenty Best Horror Novels of 2014, Preditors & Editors Readers Poll), the recently released Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast and Martuk…the Holy: Shayateen. In addition, his award-winning short story “Forever Dark” can be found in Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales from the Lake, Vol. 2 and various essays are included in the non-fiction Horror 201: The Silver Scream and Writers On Writing, Vol. 2, both from award-winning Crystal Lake Publishing.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

In 2004 I wrote my first play and then my first feature script which, through friends, landed on several desks at DreamWorks. Then, in 2008, tired of the very real constraints of screenwriting, I decided to write a book. Easy enough, right? Well, fast forward four years (yes, four years) and Martuk…The Holy was finally released with its follow-up, Martuk…The Holy: Proseuche, arriving in 2014.

When it comes to body horror, I wasn’t aware that’s what I was doing until the release of Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast in 2016 and then Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast in 2021.

As for what got me started, as I said, there was a desire to move away from the rules and regulations of screenwriting – I mean, not like writing fiction had rules and regulations, right? Oy vey – so the first book, Martuk, quite literally came to me while I was walking in my neighborhood in Greenwich Village. Washington Square Park, to be precise. The arc, the history, where and when it was placed, the Why of What this Martuk, an endlessly tortured immortal, does. I could barely make it home fast enough to get to the laptop.

Martuk the Holy book cover
Eidolon Avenue The Second Feast book cover

The first Eidolon came to me while I was weeding the garden. Or whatever it is you call it when you absentmindedly move dirt around with your foot while chatting on your cell. That book surprised me. I was working with an editor at the time who kept encouraging me to amp it up, make it more, make it worse, don’t be afraid to go really super-dark, don’t worry what people will think, just go all in. And what that did was create stories, bit by bit, rewrite by rewrite, that were radically different from what I’d done, what I thought I’d be doing and, more importantly, what I was aware I could do.

That first Eidolon opened up a whole new world of horror for me. One that encouraged the pushing of limits while rewarding unapologetic courage.

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Perfection kills inspiration. Read that again: Perfection kills inspiration. So don’t worry about getting those first words right. Just get ‘em on the page and clean it up later.

Also, especially when you’re twisting the rules, testing boundaries and maybe writing outside the box, stick with it even when people are pelting you with doubt and burying you under constant reminders of what’s done and what isn’t done. I’ve come to realize that when you worry about what others might think, or if what you do will be liked, you run the very real risk of suffocating those parts of your creativity that make you stand out.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the body horror genre?

There’s a testing of limits I appreciate. And courage. I suspect those who write body horror tap into dangerously dark places in order to make what hits the page as impactful and memorable as possible. You have to be brave to face what you find there.

You also have to be super-smart. That’s what really floors me about this genre. It takes real skill to pull this off in a way that’s both believable and still fantastical (or horrifying). The Whys of What Happens in body horror don’t just land on the page. They’re artfully constructed, paced, and planned with a great deal of forethought and talent.

4. What are your top three favorite body horror books (and/or films)?

To be honest with you, the majority of my reading these days – and over the past several years, really – has been mainly research-based for various projects. So I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t have a current list ready. My apologies.

Junji Ito manga collection

But I will say, although he’s manga and not a novelist, the work of Junji Ito (Japan’s Master of Terror) never ceases to amaze, unsettle, and, by its sheer genius and courage, nudge me to go a bit farther, to stretch my own boundaries, test my own limits. Blindingly surreal and twisted with rock-solid, unique storytelling coupled with unforgettable artwork, the man is a legend for a reason.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jonathan Winn, check out his website at www.martuktheholy.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@Jonathan_Winn), Instagram (@jonathan_winn), and Goodreads (@Jonathan_Winn). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

Gwendolyn Kiste

Gwendolyn Kiste

Gwendolyn Kiste is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens, from Trepidatio Publishing; And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, from JournalStone; the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, from Broken Eye Books; the occult horror novelette, The Invention of Ghosts, from Nightscape Press; and the folk horror novel, Boneset & Feathers, with Broken Eye Books. Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Tor’s Nightfire, Vastarien, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Unnerving, Interzone, and LampLight, as well as Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic Fantasy series, among others. Originally from Ohio, she now resides on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I’m a horror and dark fantasy author based in Pennsylvania. My books include The Rust Maidens, Boneset & Feathers, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and Pretty Marys All in a Row, among others. My work has won three Bram Stoker Awards and has been translated into five languages.

I’ve always loved horror. I grew up in a horror-centric family; Halloween and all things creepy were very much normal for us. I started writing little picture books in elementary school, and that led to a lifetime love of storytelling. Since I was always into weird stuff to begin with, my stories have constantly circled back around to horror. It’s definitely where my heart is and will always be. Every good part of my life has been related to horror in some way, from my favorite childhood memories with my parents to meeting my husband when we were both horror filmmakers to being a full-time horror author now. There’s definitely no better place for me in the world than in horror.

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe book cover
The Invention of Ghosts book cover
Boneset and Feathers book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

It probably sounds too simple, but the best advice is to just keep going. Keep writing, keep reading, and keep doing your best to have fun with it. That can be easy to forget; this industry can sadly be very cruel and competitive at times. But if you do your best to tune out that negativity and just have fun with writing, then that’s really the best way.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the body horror genre?

I love how at its core, body horror deals with themes of identity. It really gets down to the nitty-gritty of who we are as human beings. We often don’t think about it much, because we’re all living in them every day, but our bodies are truly horrifying landscapes. Things can go wrong with them that we never see coming, and our bodies do such weird things all the time. Strange aches and pains and sensations. Plus, from the time we’re born until the moment we die, we’re experiencing constant transformations. That’s part of who we are, and body horror can do a fantastic job of exploring that.

4. What are your top three favorite body horror books (and/or films)?

The Brood film criterion edition cover
The Bloody Chamber book cover

David Cronenberg’s The Brood is a big favorite of mine. Creepy kids in horror are always fantastic, and the little snowsuit-wearing creatures in The Brood are so great. However, what’s truly unforgettable is Samantha Eggar as their mother Nola. Her performance is seriously seared into my memory, and I love it so much.

The Ray Bradbury story, “Skeleton,” and specifically its television adaptation on Ray Bradbury Theater absolutely terrified me as a child. I was convinced for days after seeing that episode that someone would come along and try to steal my skeleton from inside my skin. shudders

I also love the way Angela Carter deals with body horror in her collection, The Bloody Chamber. She figured out how to take the strange and horrifying elements of fairy tales and tease out the body horror. From the werewolf transformations in her versions of Little Red Riding Hood to her reinventions of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, she really did some of the most remarkable—and remarkably beautiful—work in body horror of all time. Anytime I reread her fiction, it still takes my breath away.

If you’re interested in learning more about Gwendolyn Kiste, check out her website at www.gwendolynkiste.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@GwendolynKiste) and Goodreads (@Gwendolyn_Kiste). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

On the Verge: Sci-Fi Horror Authors You Need to be Reading

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Best Horror Books Best Of Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books Indie Horror

In the world of sci-fi horror literature there are some common names that spring to mind first: Mary Shelley, Harlan Ellison, Philip K Dick, and Jeff Vandermeer. However, there are plenty of lesser known authors, or authors still early on in their careers, who are writing stories just as full of technology and terror as the genre classics. At Puzzle Box Horror we’re all about finding and promoting the best in horror, so we thought we would help shine a light on some of the newer or less known writers who need to be on your radar! When it comes to finding the best sci-fi horror books, you’re going to be glad you broadened your search and gave these authors a chance.

Sci-Fi Horror Authors

Joseph Sale

Sci-fi horror author Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale is a prolific novelist and editor. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He is published with The Writing Collective and has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his love-letter to fantasy: Save Game. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth. His short fiction has also appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet, Storgy Magazine, and numerous anthologies.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

My name is Joseph Sale, but many call me the Mindflayer. I am a writer of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and many things in-between, as well as an editor; two titles I edited last year went on to the Bram Stoker preliminary ballot, and one is on the Nomination list! I love helping writers achieve their vision. As I say frequently, “The aim of an editor is not to point out what is wrong, but to see what the writers intended, and help them achieve that.”

In terms of horror writing, it came slightly later on for me. When I was initially starting out as a writer, I was mainly trying to write sword & sorcery fantasy. They were very hackneyed and derivative, and ultimately, they didn’t really read like “me”. They were Tolkien clones, aping the archaic style (but falling far short of it). But one day, I encountered a little known writer called Stephen King! The first book I ever read by him was The Stand. It blew my mind. I think I felt like King had found a way to translate that fantasy epic feeling into a modern setting. From then on, I became a horror junkie, and I started to write horror. I quickly realized that horror facilitated an exploration of darker themes; it allowed me to take off the shackles of decency and normality and delve into the roiling darkness of my own psyche in a way my previous attempts at swashbuckling fantasy had not allowed. This was a very therapeutic and healing process. Ultimately, in exploring the darkness, which only horror allowed me to fully do, I came to the light, so to speak.

Black Gate book cover
Beyond the Black Gate book cover
return to the black gate book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Wow, this is a hard question. I think my first tip would be less is more. I had a tendency to over-write to the nth degree when I started out. I still think that maximalism trumps minimalism in writing, and I prefer over-written to the “stark” and soulless prose of many popular writers today, but too much is very clumsy and ultimately detracts from the very emotional power one is trying to generate. 

My other piece of advice would be to listen. By this, I mean to the inner voice. Sometimes, the intellect cannot solve a problem, only intuition and the deeper Muse can. It might sound flighty and poetic, but it is the truth in my experience. We all have this reservoir of knowledge. Our subconscious makes the right decision before we know it consciously. I too rarely listened to my creative intuition back then. Now, I am always waiting for that quiet voice to speak. 

Next, structure, structure, structure. Many writers seem to believe they can find their way without understanding the internal structures of narrative (and I certainly used to be one of them). However, now I’ve learned (and teach) the 5-Act structure, it has totally transformed my fiction. I would highly recommend the 5-Act structure for its simplicity, versatility, and clarity (for more information, check out my blog here). However, we all have to find the one that works for us! 

Lastly, I highly recommend joining a mastermind group / writer’s sharing group (again, something I never did until recently). The feedback and energy of a group is invaluable. That sense of community, being able to puzzle out problems with others, and also having access to workshops – all of these are so empowering. I am a member of Let’s Get Published run by amazing writer Christa Wojciechowski. It’s been a transformative experience.

The Meaning of the dark book cover
Seven Dark Stairs book cover
Orifice book cover

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

Horror and sci-fi have been linked for a long time, Mark Shelley’s Frankenstein being a prime example. I often conceive of science fiction arising from a place of anxiety. In the case of Frankenstein, this is certainly true – it’s clear that Shelley was disturbed by the idea of men playing God with galvanization, and, by virtue of doing so, supplanting the woman as the natural mother and giver of life. One need only look to the atomic bomb for further evidence that technology should be viewed with healthy suspicion. 

Another way to look at it is that in some ways, sci-fi horror is an oxymoron, and I am always interested in contrasts! Horror is sometimes said to be the only genre defined by an emotion. The aim of horror is to make us feel something: horror, revulsion, disgust, paranoia, perhaps even terror, the list goes on. That is a very raw, potent thing. Science Fiction, on the other hand, is in general more intellectual. It appeals to the left side of the brain. It is imaginative – hugely so – but it comes from a place of trying to logically envision a future, be it dystopian or otherwise. When we blend the two together, we have a recipe for success: the rational science – the logic of humankind – pitted against the irrational horror. In many ways, this is mythopoeic and psychological, it almost seems to describe the battle between our conscious minds with our unconscious fears. It is a marriage made in heaven. And, of course, we all know that logic will never truly triumph over emotion, which makes the presence of horror in a sci-fi universe all the more powerful. 

Biomelt sci-fi horror comic book cover
Nameless horror comic book cover
Frankenstein book cover

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

Three?! Only three? You are cruel. 

Biomelt by Carlton Mellick III has got to be up there. The book is a work of genius. The science fiction is perfectly blended with horror. In this crazy, crazy novel, the overpopulation problem has been solved by people being “combined” in a bizarre scientific procedure that merges their physical matter, experience, and personality. I can’t say much more than that or it will give the game away – suffice to say something goes horribly wrong. This book is overflowing with incredible ideas and characters, including my personal favorite, a serial killer known as Porn Eyes, because he has watched so much holographic pornography it’s been seared onto his eyeballs. Amazing stuff. 

To cheat a little, and branch out into the realm of graphic novels, I would also say Grant Morrison’s Nameless. Essentially, an asteroid named Xibala is heading towards Earth, and it’s going to be an extinction event. A group of astronauts is dispatched to destroy the asteroid, Armageddonstyle. However, it soon becomes apparent that Xibala is no mere asteroid, it’s a remnant of a cosmic war, fought by Lovecraftian beings, a gateway to a dimension best left unfound. It is a truly harrowing read that effortlessly moves between science fiction, terrifying cosmic horror, and finally, into a universe of dream-language. It is mesmeric and profound. Don’t expect answers to come easy, though!  

The last I’d have to recommend would be the great Frankenstein. Shelley’s prose is so potent. Every time I re-read Frankenstein, I see new things in it, new depths. Its relevance has only increased as time has gone on. Now, we have the capability to “improve” children by “removing” genetic defects – we are, more than ever, a society playing God, and if nothing else that has serious consequences for the psyche. 

There have been many attempts to artificially modernize Frankenstein but invariably – at least in my view – they fail because they remove the best part of it: the language. Shelley’s style, and her sense of “what lies beneath”, is what makes the novel the powerhouse it is. The only remotely successful attempt in my view is Junji Ito’s manga-isation, which is a masterpiece (and which also remains extremely faithful to the original). I think the key thing is that for all Victor Frankenstein’s wordy monologuing on science, life, despair, creation, much is left unsaid in Frankenstein, and that is its true power, and a lesson to all horror writers.

If you’re interested in learning more about Joseph Sale, check out his website at www.themindflayer.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@josephwordsmith) and Goodreads (@Joseph_Sale). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.


Caitlin Starling

Sci-fi horror author Caitlin Starling

Caitlin Starling is an award-winning writer of horror-tinged speculative fiction. Her novel The Luminous Dead won the LOHF Best Debut award, and was nominated for both a Locus and a Bram Stoker award. Her other works include Yellow Jessamine and a novella in Vampire: The Masquerade: Walk Among Us. Her nonfiction has appeared in Nightmare and Uncanny. Caitlin also works in narrative design, and has been paid to invent body parts.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I started writing really young and never really stopped, though my interests and goals have of course shifted over time. In particular, there was a period after high school until my mid 20s where I convinced myself that professional writing was far too hard and unrewarding a field to pursue. It sounds very cynical, but it was actually extremely freeing. It let me just write what I wanted to, without needing to stress too much about what it was “for”. I wrote a lot of fanfiction and did a lot of text roleplaying back then.

The whole time, I was undeniably drawn to tell darker stories (though not, notably, tragedies – those are way too sad!), but for a long time I didn’t think I liked horror. Really, I thought I was too much of an anxious weenie for it! And yet there I was, sending my characters through hell, always reaching for the most unsettling, fucked up option whenever I needed some details. I wrote so many words about death curses, obsessive research that led to ecstatic oblivion, seances gone horribly wrong, the terror of your identity being changed without your permission… Eventually, around the time I started what became The Luminous Dead, I figured out that I’d been writing horror of some kind all along, and decided to lean into it and start doing my homework so I could make it scarier for everybody.

(There are still times where I wonder if I’m “really” writing horror, and then a reader will offhandedly mention that I’ve made low battery notifications traumatic, and it’s like, yes, okay, I might not be scared of what I write, but everybody else sure is!)

Luminous Dead Book Cover
Photo credit: www.ericarobynreads.com

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Have fun whenever you can. It gets way harder the more pressure is on you, but no matter what point of your career you’re in (at least up to where I am now!). Stepping back and writing something because it’s fun is always some combination of relief, freedom to experiment, and opportunity to learn without necessarily realizing you’re doing it. Like I already mentioned, I spent so many years writing fanfiction or doing text-based roleplaying with friends, and I banged out more words and tried more approaches with the “fun” writing than I ever managed to with my “serious” projects. Plus it was just enjoyable, and kept me focused on the truth that, no matter how hard it gets (and seriously, it gets hard, it just does) I still just fundamentally enjoy writing.

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

Technology doesn’t care if it’s good for us (neither do the people who create it, in a lot of cases). Every helpful facet of every tech advance seems to come with either a tradeoff or an unexpected consequence. It’s just really fun to play with, honestly: how can I take this neat invention I’ve created because it’s cool or to solve a plot issue and use it to cause even more plot issues. With The Luminous Dead, Gyre has a suit that keeps her fed and warm and protected from the cave. It carries her gear. It connects her to the surface so she isn’t alone. Great! Now what horrible things also come along with that? How does she get plugged into that suit, and what does it feel like a week on, a month? What happens if the communications feature doesn’t so much stop working as work in a way Gyre doesn’t understand? What’s it like, to be cared for and constrained by the same indispensable object that has no feelings about you either way?

So not only does tech change the landscape of what your characters can do or explore, and not only can it be a weird and surprising new threat, but those two things can be completely linked. It’s elegant and honestly really upsetting sometimes!

Annihilation book cover
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington book cover
The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson sci-fi horror book cover

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, which is a completely intoxicating mindfuck. I feel like it’s what would happen if The Thing and House of Leaves had a really environmentally-conscious baby.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington does some extremely cool stuff with expectations of physical scale in space that I really, really loved. Not to mention some great psychodrama.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson is just a wild ride, start to finish. The sequel just cranks it up even higher. Clones! Secret government programs! Constant, relentless violence against yourself! It really has everything.

(Also, as a bonus: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey – first of The Expanse novels, you may have heard of them – isn’t a horror novel per-se, but the horror elements in it? Incredible.)

If you’re interested in learning more about Caitlin Starling, check out her website at www.caitlinstarling.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@see_starling), Instagram (@authorcstarling), and Goodreads (@Caitlin_Starling). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.


Scott Jones

Photo of sci-fi horror author Scott R Jones

Scott R. Jones is a Canadian writer living in Victoria BC with his wife and two frighteningly intelligent spawn. He is the author of When The Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality (Martian Migraine Press) and the weird fiction story collection Shout Kill Revel Repeat (Journalstone/Trepidatio). His debut novel Stonefish was published by Word Horde in 2020. He was once kicked out of England for some very good reasons.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I’m a Canadian fella from the west coast of British Columbia, so I’ve been steeped since childhood in that weird PNW vibe. Also, grew up in an apocalypse cult, so combine the two influences and you’ve got me and my work: paranoia, things in the woods, ultraterrestrial entities offering bad deals, crumbling “real” realities, compelling false realities, and so on.

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

I’m pushing 50 now and I know I lost a certain momentum by taking a long break from writing at the turn of the century, which I absolutely should not have done. I’d tell myself to not take that break, basically. Consistency in output is key; it doesn’t have to be good output, even, just make sure you keep at it regular-like. I’m not a “write every day” guy because c’mon, that’s impossible for most, but yeah, be consistent with putting your butt in the seat and your fingers on the keyboard.

Stonefish book cover
Shout Kill Revel Repeat book cover
Cthulhusattva book cover

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

I think it speaks to a truth we are increasingly feeling to be relevant to our existence in the 21st Century. Lovecraft warned us of the “black seas of infinity” that surround our species and true to form, we are exploring that void of unknowing and correlating our contents! Will we go mad from the revelation? Seems we’re halfway there already. Sci-fi horror and weird horror are the genres in which we can explore these ideas most effectively, to my mind.

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Communion by Whitley Striber

If you’re interested in learning more about Scott Jones, check out his website at www.scottrjoneswriter.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@PimpMyShoggoth) and Goodreads (@Scott_R_Jones). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.


JZ Foster and Justin Woodward

Sci-fi horror author JZ Foster

Born and raised in Ohio, JZ Foster moved to South Korea after college and lived there for 8 years, running a small English school, marrying a Korean woman and having a baby. In his time in South Korea, he’s become well versed in Korean politics and has done multiple radio interviews on South Korean and North politics. Since returning to the U.S., he’s launched his writing career and three series.

sci-fi horror author Justin M. Woodward

Justin M. Woodward lives in Headland, Alabama with his wife and two small boys, Nathan and Lucas. He is the author of three novels and dozens of short stories. You can follow him on all social media to reach out to him.

On a space station on Mars, a terrible mistake opens a gate to an alternate reality — and something comes through from the other side. After the station cuts off communication, a crew is sent to investigate, but they’re unprepared for the nightmare that awaits them…

Enter the world of Reality Bleed, a sci-fi thriller series by best selling authors J.Z. Foster and Justin M. Woodward (published under their press Winter Gate Publishing). Fans of Doom and Aliens will love this!

Reality Bleeds sci-fi thriller cover art with robot.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

J.Z. Foster: Like most horror writers, I’ve been watching horror movies and reading horror books since I was a kid. I still have a deep love for the Resident Evil games/books, and the movie Aliens has honestly had an impact on my life. I started writing because I had a hard time trying to find the types of books that I wanted to read. That and I love telling stories. I ran roleplaying games for my friends for years before I ever started writing, so I was telling stories then too.

Justin Woodward: I was interested in horror at a young age. I vividly remember begging my parents for the latest Goosebumps book every time we went to the store. I always wanted to create my own stories, even wrangling my babysitter into helping me “write a horror book”. To this day, I’m not sure what happened to that. Unfortunately, I didn’t start actually writing long fiction until I got the idea for my first novel, The Variant, which was more of a sci-fi thriller than horror. It wasn’t until the idea for Tamer Animals came about that I took the plunge to delve deeper into my dark side.

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

J.Z.: I only started outlining stories recently, and I found out that it helps a lot. I’d definitely recommend new writers do that! Other than that, I’d tell others (and myself) not to be too hard on their own work. Sometimes it’s difficult for writers to judge if their own work is ‘good’ or not, and all it ends up doing is slowing down the writing process.

Justin: Don’t waste time. Don’t second guess yourself. Put the content out there and be true to yourself. Don’t worry about following trends or the market, and don’t depend on anyone but yourself.

Hell on Mars book cover
Call of the void book cover
Crash Burn Die book cover

3. What is your favorite aspect of the sci-fi horror genre?

J.Z.: Certainly world building. I like creating a unique world for the characters to live in. I feel that in sci-fi, the world and environment needs to be a character itself.

Justin: I think I’m drawn to the fact that most things depicted in sci-fi horror are things that are actual possibilities in the real world, all we need to do is give it enough time.

4. What are your top three favorite sci-fi horror books?

J.Z.: That’s a good question, I’m not sure! Certainly a lot of Lovecraft and the Alien books, along with a myriad of comic books I’ve read in the genre. I can give you three movies though: Aliens, Pandorum, and The Thing.

Justin: Believe it or not, I haven’t read a ton of sci-fi horror. I was always into the genre as far as films go, but I never really got deep into the literature side of it. A few I’ve enjoyed are I Am Legend, John Dies At The End, and 1984.

If you’re interested in learning more about JZ Foster check out his website at www.jzfoster.com You can also follow the author on Twitter (@jzfosterauthor), Instagram (@jzfosterauthor), and Goodreads (@J_Z_Foster). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

If you’re interested in learning more about Justin Woodward, check out his website at www.justinmwoodward.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@justinmwoodward), Instagram (@justinmwoodward), and Goodreads (@Justin_M_Woodward). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.